The Bayonne Board of Education has voted to approve three assistant supervisors of special services and fill the new roles on the recommendation of Superintendent of Schools John Niesz.
Stefanie Tych was reassigned from a school psychologist at Woodrow Wilson Community School (WWCS) to be the assistant supervisor of special services in charge of the autism program at Bayonne High School (BHS) and WWCS.
Jason Acerra was reassigned from a teacher of the handicapped at BHS to be the assistant supervisor of special services of the behavior disorders program and the alternative program at BHS.
Noelia Lago was reassigned from a social studies teacher at BHS to be the assistant supervisor of special services of the multiply disabled and self-contained programs.
Each salary totals $126,508. They all start on July 1.
Niesz has also recently recommended the creation of an Assistant Superintendent of Special Services and recommended Jennifer Vecchiarelli for the job. The board unanimously approved both recommendations.
At its April meeting, the board voted 7-2 to approve the positions. Trustee Ava Finnerty asked Niesz the rationale for the changes and was told that he could not comment and that questions should have been asked during executive session.
Finnerty subsequently voted no as did Trustee Dennis Wilbeck. However, the appointments were ultimately approved by the rest of the board without comment.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Melissa Godesky Rodriguez applauded the move.
“I’m so happy to see all the additions to our special education services,” Godesky-Rodriguez said. “For years I’ve been coming up here and questioning when will services be added, because they’re not just for our special education students. They’re going to be there to close the gap for many of our other students.”
Supporting the supporters
In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Assistant Superintendent Vecchiarelli further detailed the ongoing expansion of special education programs in the city.
“There are so many great things already going on in the Bayonne School District for our special education students,” Vecchiarelli said. “So we want to hone in on specific programs and keep growing and improving on them. The three assistant supervisor positions are to focus mainly on three specific areas, so we can work with professionally developing our staff in those different areas. We will also be working with staff to see where, even though they’re already in a really good position, we want to look at improving so that we can grow and do even more for the kids.”
Vecchiarelli said the district is also reviving “Project Support.”
“We have counselors, guidance counselors, and CSP, but there’s such an overwhelming need for support services for our students, and with the current staff, it would just be impossible for us to fill all of those needs,” Vecchiarelli said.
The district has hired three social workers who will work at the elementary schools to provide social and emotional support, counseling, and crisis intervention services. “They’ll be working with the child study teams, the guidance counselors and principals to serve all our students’ emotional needs,” Vecchiarelli said.
At the high school, there will be two additional counselors that will be available to serve students. The support will be available for not only special education students but general education students as well.
“These counselors are solely here to provide the social and emotional support to our students who need it,” Vecchiarelli said. “Coming back from this pandemic, there’s such a need for it, especially now.”
The district is now almost done amassing necessary staff to support the Special Services Department. Hiring is ongoing for two additional child study teams.
“Caseloads are very big, and we want to try to alleviate some of that saturation, so we have two new teams that we are forming,” Vecchiarelli said.
She added that it will be good to have the new assistant supervisors start in the summer to look at how the department is going to execute its plans.
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